Monday, January 30, 2012

2012 New Year Party

Last week the Sagamihara Friendship ladies hosted the ZaCSA {Zama Community Spouses Association} members to celebrate the new year in proper Japanese fashion.  Last years party was so much fun, I couldn't wait to see what they planned for us this year.  As much as I loved last year, this year was even better.  They completely outdid themselves this year!  The ladies were beautifully dressed in formal Japanese kimonos

the entertainment was amazing

we even got a turn to play 

This was actually my 2nd time getting to play Taiko drums.  I posted a video of me playing the drums last year HERE.

This year I got to play with one of my best friends and it was so much fun! {random side note, I love how my hair looked that day}

After trying Taiko for the 2nd time, I decided that I really enjoy the rush I get while playing and want to take lessons.  One of the ladies is helping me out and I start in 2 weeks! 

 and the food was delicious {as always!}

my friend just emailed me this photo of me digging into all the yummy food!

We played the same bean game as last year {you move different sized beans and peanuts from one bowl to another using chopsticks.  the smaller the bean, the more points they are worth}

 I'm proud to announce that for the 2nd year in a row I was a part of the winning team.  I kind of kick a$$ with chopsticks!

After our yummy lunch and the game, the ladies treated us to a beautiful singing performance

we had time for a few more photos before we had to head back to base

A group photo of all the ZaCSA members who attended

Melissa and me with all of the Friendship Sagamihara ladies {these are the awesome ladies we are blessed to teach on Wednesday's}

and us with this years President an VP, Eriko and Sachiko

On our way back, I had my 1st up close encounter with the protesters that sit outside of our base every Wednesday.  They post signs

and just sit there peacefully.  It's unlike any "protest" I've ever seen before.  I heard a story today that the protesters even call someone on base to let them know when they will be late.  I love that they can get their point across without shouting and violence.

I stopped by the mail room before going home and received the best surprise!

This came from Lauren, my brother-in-law's fiance {the one I have things in common with.  The one who told me about their wedding in person and not via her facebook status.  The one who was considerate enough to tell us way in advance of their plans so that we could plan to be there. The one I was secretly hoping would ask me to be in their wedding!!!!!!}.  I cannot wait!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pinterest Challenge

When I first joined Pinterest a few months ago, I promised myself I wouldn't waste hours pinning things and then not going back and actually doing some of the things I pinned.  I haven't had a problem sticking to that yet!  So far, I have

cooked crispy Parmesan asparagus and mini loaded potatoes as part of our anniversary dinner

learned THE BEST KITCHEN TIP EVER.  I no longer have to dread recipes that call for "shredded chicken"

made scrabble coasters

decorated delicious cookies 

cooked a yummy enchilada pasta

turned all of my hangers backwards.  As I wear something I hang it up the normal way so in 6 months I will know exactly what clothes I haven't worn and I can toss them out! {yes, I color coordinate my closet!}

my awesome neighbor saw this idea on my board and made it for me for Christmas

painted my nails super fancy, something I NEVER do

created a beautiful wedding present for my friends

FINALLY found a way to organize all my scarfs! 

ate these zucchini boats as an afternoon snack

Today, I hosted a "Pinterest party" at my house.  I invited about 10 ladies and we decided to make a craft and share some food that we had seen on Pinterest.  I created a board that all of us could post to where we shared a few different ideas before we finally agreed on making a recycled magazine craft {For us, access to materials is a serious deciding factor.  Many of the ideas we liked would have required us to ordered supplies from the States and until we saw how this was going to go, we didn't want to make any huge investments}.   Having that joint board was wonderful.  Everyone was able to pin the food they wanted to bring so we didn't have 3 people bringing the same thing.  The craft we chose ended up being incredibly time consuming and I didn't finish until about 2 hours after everyone left {about 5-6 hours total}.  I was thrilled with the outcome but my hands are sore and I will not be making another!  Believe it or not, I took ZERO photos during the day.   I was just so busy having fun with friends, I totally forgot!  The one photo I do have is of my finished craft

We are planning to get together again next month and since I won't be the host I promise to take more photos!

I think I have far exceeded my goal to actually use/do/create/make the things I find on Pinterest!  Who knew this website would end up being a reason for me to throw a party?!?

{I tried to link all photos back to the original ideas but if they don't work, they can be found on my Pinterest page HERE!}


I just found this Pinterest Challenge link up over at The Trendy Treehouse

What great motivation to try more new things found on Pinterest!

Thursday, January 26, 2012


I am admittedly no Bridget of Bake @ 350 but occasionally I do like to bake a decorate sugar cookies.  When I decided to host a "Pinterest Party" I knew right away that I would be making cookies.

I'm constantly being told that I'm creative but truthfully I'm just really good at creating my version of other people's ideas {and that is exactly what I tell people when then say to me that I am creative}.  This time however, I can honestly take credit for the idea that resulted in my creation.  I highly doubt that I am the 1st person to make cookies like these but from what I could find on the internet, I may be, I cannot find any like them anywhere!

Bridget would most definitely kick my booty in a cookie decorating contest but for someone who doesn't do this very often, I am super proud of these cookies!

I used Bridget's cookie recipe but since I don't like almond, I just used all vanilla extract instead.  Usually when I do cookies like this I make my own royal icing but I cheated this time and used store bought cookie icing.

I cannot wait for the party on Saturday!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Business Idea

It's no secret that I love to cook and I love to share my passion for food with others {hence half of my blog posts revolving around food}.  The husband and I have been talking about ways I can contribute more to our family financially without cutting into my social life {because that is important} and our travel desires{a full time job isn't going to allow me to take 30 days off for a wedding in June and 45 days off for 2 weddings in Aug/Sept plus additional time off for leisure travel}.  I think we may have found a solution.  My husband has been telling me for years now that I should teach cooking lessons to new wives.  Living in Japan, this idea presents interesting new possibilities. There are quite a few soldiers who marry local Japanese girls who aren't used to cooking, or even eating, foods that we as Americans consider staples. I know if I married a Japanese man I would have NO CLUE how to cook the foods he grew up eating and would jump at the opportunity to have someone teach me.  I am thinking about offering classes in classic "American" comfort food: pot roast, lasagna, chocolate chip cookies, meatloaf, chicken & dumplings, chili, apple pie, beef stew, fried chicken, etc. and potentially taking requests from husbands =}

GAH!  I can't believe I'm actually thinking about starting a "business"!  Before I go any further, I'd like some input from my fabulous readers.  I have questions.

Knowing that I have no formal training as a chef {yet...I'm seriously considering culinary school after our time in Japan}...

1}Would you be interested in taking a class like this as an American who just doesn't know a thing about cooking?

2}Would you be interested in taking a class like this if you had married someone from a different culture?

3}How much would you be willing to pay for this class?

4}Would you prefer one on one classes or small {3-4 students} group classes?

5}Have you ever started a business while living on a military base? {I welcome ANY and ALL advice, I'm sure there is going to be a lot of paperwork involved}

6} AM I CRAZY?!?!?!

As of right now, this is still in the brainstorming {out loud} stage.  I may realize there really isn't a market for it or it just isn't worth the effort to get it all started {legally} and toss the whole idea out the window.  For now I'm just collecting ideas and asking you lovelies for your thoughts!  Any words of wisdom, thoughts, comments or questions are welcome and appreciated!

And because I don't like blogging with out at least one photo, check out this gorgeous Turkish pottery I picked up today

the kind man that was selling this pottery at Yokota AFB today said he'd be making a stop at CZ in a few weeks...I'll be saving my pennies yen to buy some more when he gets here!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Anniversary dinner & a special request

Yesterday my husband and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary!  We feel incredibly blessed that this was our 3rd year in a row that we were TOGETHER!  I don't know many military spouses that can say they have spent 75% of their wedding anniversaries together and we are incredibly grateful to say we have.

He surprised me by taking off from work early and bringing me flowers after a few not so subtle hints

I cooked one of the most delicious meals either of us has ever eaten last night.

Most of it was pretty simple and I would recommend ALL of these recipes!

this is actually the lobster I ordered last year for our anniversary in Hawaii and I was lucky enough to find the recipe online!

these were PERFECT!  every single bite had the perfect amount of each flavor.  these will become a regular menu item in out house and that is speaking volumes because we rarely eat potatoes

these were good but next time I'll leave out the flour and probably add more Parmesan and a little garlic powder

{both the potatoes and asparagus I found on pinterest}

we followed that all up {hours later} with homemade cheescake and fresh strawberry topping!

The cheesecake is now sitting in my husbands office.  I did not need that sitting in my house.  I would have eaten it for breakfast lunch and dinner today!


I also have a HUGE favor to ask of each of you!

Our dear friend Haley has been nominated for the 2012 Military Spouse of the Year and I would appreciate if you would vote for her HERE!  She is a West Point graduate, veteran, mother, Gold Star spouse and is working to make employment easier for military spouses.  I can't think of anyone who deserves this honor more than she does!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


One of the best decisions Jason and I ever made was to get married over a 4 day weekend.  Now, every year when our anniversary rolls around, we have a long weekend to celebrate!  Last year we went to Hawaii {thanks to a TDY}, this year we chose to stay closer and we went to Nagano for 3 days.  I was just happy that we were spending our 3rd anniversary in a row together.  I'm pretty sure that might be some sort of record among the military community!  

The weekend was...interesting!  Overall we had a great time but the weekend definitely had it's high and low points.

Saturday morning, we boarded a Shinkansen bound for Nagano.  It was Jason's 1st time to ride the bullet train

When we arrived, the package we had paid for through the travel office on base included a free bento or lunch box.  We had no idea what to expect of these bentos but they ended up being delicious and we couldn't have picked a better lunch if we tried!

We had a few hours before we were able to check into our hotel and thanks to the awesome system here that is called "black cat"{for a very reasonable fee, this company will ship your luggage to your hotel, usually in under 24 hours.  It truly makes traveling within the country a breeze!  America should take note.}, we didn't have any luggage so we walked up a beautiful shop lined street in the snow to check out a temple in Nagano city

at one of the side temples, I spun a wheel to save myself from pain and suffering

once we entered the main temple

we noticed a long line of people waiting to see a man ornately dressed at the front of the temple {I assume he would be the equivalent of a Priest in a Catholic church}.  We weren't going to join in because we weren't really sure what was going on {we assumed it was some sort of prayer or blessing but it could have been anything!} but a kind Japanese gentleman saw us and pointed to the line and said "dozo!  dozo!" or "go ahead! go ahead!" so we joined the line.  We watched what others were doing so we knew what to do when it was out turn.  Each time a person would step in front of the man in the fancy clothes they would place their hands together and bow slightly as the man pressed his gloved hands onto their head.  The kind man in front of us showed us to put some change into a dish and step in front of the bigwig. We did as we had seen each person in front of us do and I can only hope that the man prayed kind words upon us.  I really wish I could have taken photos of this man in his fancy robes or asked questions to find out exactly what was happening.  I REALLY need to work on my Japanese!

After our visit to the Zenko-ji Temple, we took another train then checked into our ryokan, or Japanese hotel.  This was my 1st time staying in a ryokan.  It's slightly different from a traditional Western room in that there isn't a bed.  In the evening, a futon mattress is laid out for sleeping.

The room set up for the day
 the sitting/eating area
 us in our yukatas with our beds laid out

This is where I realize this post is going to be LONG!!!!  Oh well, I don't want to break it up.  So...

After we checked into our hotel, we took off in search of dinner.  We chose a chanko-nabe {WikiPedia's 24 hour black out is messing with my ability to easily link unknown Japanese words on my blog...point taken} place.  When we walked in, there was only one table occupied

to make a REALLY LONG story short, by the time we received our food {the same thing EVERY OTHER TABLE ORDERED} every table was full and had their food!!!!  I was LIVID but since I don't speak the language, I couldn't really do anything about it but sit there and stew {pun intended}!  A very kind family at the table behind us realized what was happening and started sharing their food with us.  They spoke little to no English but were still extremely kind to us foreigners.  The woman kept saying Jason was "macho"...I am NEVER going to hear the end of that one.  They had an adorable 6 year old son who spent the entire evening shouting any and every English word he knew, "APPLE!", "SUGAR!", "MONKEY!".  Their kindness completely turned my mood upside down and I ended up thoroughly enjoying my evening {and, I hate to admit, the food was well worth the wait}.

Day 2 was spent in Shiga Kogen which is home to some of the slopes that were used in the 1998 Nagano Olympic Games.

I might have spent most of my time ordering hot chocolate from a vending machine !
 my little ski turtle did so much better than his 1st attempt last year.  Instead of just flying down the hills screaming "sumimasen" {"excuse me" in Japanese} he actually slowed down and attempted to teach himself to turn and stop

That night for dinner, Jason decided he wanted to try the "western" restaurant the hotel staff had told us about.  When we arrived we found a menu with no photos and no English.

In case you can't tell from the prices, he was reading this upside down and understanding about as much as he was when he tried to read it the right way.

One of the VERY FEW words I can read in Kanji is "chicken" so we each pointed to an item under the chicken section and what  we were served was one of the best pieces of chicken I have ever put in my mouth!

For the 2nd night in a row what started out as a not so good dinner experience did a complete 180!

Our 3rd day in Nagano was my favorite!  We hiked along a beautiful trail for 30 minutes in the below freezing temperatures to visit a wild monkey park
 I have never in my life, up until this minute, called snow "beautiful" was truly breath taking!
 and the monkeys?!?!  THEY WERE SO ADORABLE!
 "this is fun, but how will I ever get down?!?!"

 they spend a lot of time keeping warm in one of the natural hot springs

 a huge crowd showed up right before we left
 this guy was hanging out in the tree eating a snack

After visiting the snow monkeys we grabbed a warm bowl of soba {Japanese buckwheat noodles that are very famous in Nagano}

and headed home.

Today is our actual anniversary.  I'm looking forward to cooking a delicious lobster dinner followed by some cheesecake that is chilling in the fridge =}